Tag Archives: ships

How clean is your cruise ship?

Cruise ships are inspected, just like restaurants. (There’s probably more to check on a ship.) So, if you’re one of those people that likes to check the restaurant scores from the local sanitation department before your visit, you would be interested in the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP.) The VSP is administered by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC.)

All scores are public information. You can review the inspection results and any follow-up reports here:

https://wwwn.cdc.gov/InspectionQueryTool/InspectionSearch.aspx

A passing score is an 86 which is a lot stricter than when I was in school. There are a lot of items that are checked, so there are a lot of places to go wrong, but some things are more serious than others.

There is also general information for cruise passengers available here:

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/public/public.htm

If you just want the poop (ha!) on current disease outbreaks, go here:

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm#2019

Next time you go on a cruise, see how clean you ship is first!

Titanic II

So, the Blue Star Line is in the process of building a duplicate (almost) of the RMS Titanic, and is planning to sail the original route across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York. Hopefully, it will not duplicate the original sailing, so it will make it all the way to New York.
First of all, anyone in Dallas that hears “Blue Star” immediately thinks Jerry Jones is involved (which is why Blue Star Sports changed their name.) If Jerry Jones was involved, the ship would get within twenty yards of the port and stall.
Why would anyone do this?
I know that if you look at Disney Cruise Lines ships, they don’t look like cruise ships. They look like ocean liners, like in the old-time movies. They are much more romantic, because they stir the memories of the sea in people who don’t actually have any memories, other than through movies and television.
So, there’s the romance factor. Plus, lots of people paid to see the movie Titanic, even though everyone knew how it was going to end.
Here’s the official promo video. It’s interesting as a tribute to the original ship, and a quick overview of the proposed new version.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9GJDhd_JPo]
I thought it was an interesting concept until I saw the cabins in the video. Then I remembered that people were smaller back then. Not only that, their idea of luxury was quite different than ours.
I’m sure she was quite elegant in her day, but then again, people used to like Formica and shag carpeting.
I wonder what the fares will be. How much is a 1912 dollar (or pound) worth? (OK, one site said $1 in 1912 would be worth $26.02 today. That’s a lot of money for a small cabin.)
It won’t be an exact duplicate because the ship’s operating equipment is being upgraded – diesel-electric engines instead of steam, radar, GPS, azipods (but no stabilizers), yet the passenger experience is the  same – including bunk beds in the lower classes. I’m pretty sure the equipment upgrades had to be done or she would not be able to sail. Ships today have to meet SOLAS, which ironically was put into place after the RMS Titanic sunk.
I could see doing a night-long cruise to nowhere on a 1912-vintage-ish ship just for the experience, but if I wanted to sail across the Atlantic, I’m not sure I want to spend eight nights in an inside cabin in a bunk bed, with my wife above (or below) me, complaining about the bunk beds.
I suppose some people will want to make the trip to the New World that their ancestors made, in the approximate style in which their ancestors traveled, in a replica of a ship most famous for not completing her maiden voyage. Tastes differ.
My Grandad Gilhooly sailed from Ireland to New York to begin a new life in the New World. (I’m still trying to find an exact date and ship.) I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in first class or even second class. The Irish were not sailing to conquer new worlds, they were fleeing the old one.
I sailed from Southampton to New York in the Haven on the Norwegian Breakaway, because we were given an upgrade opportunity just before we left. We had a butler. Close enough for me.
Why not upgrade the passenger experience since you’re not 100% true to the original? Just think, if you had balconies, you could have that many more people on iceberg watch.
Also, I’m pretty sure the original Titanic did not have a “Made in China” label.
I will be interested to see if she ever sails. The project is apparently now back on track after being delayed past the 100-year anniversary.
I did try to sign up for the mailing list, just to watch progress. The link was broken. I hope their server didn’t hit an iceberg and go down.
It took six years to build RMS Titanic. She was in service five days. Do we really have to try again?

Norwegian Bliss, Ketchikan, Alaska – 13 August 2013


This was our home away from home for a week around Alaska (well, up and down the coast, anyway.) The Norwegian Bliss is one of the newest ships in the Norwegian fleet, with all the bells and whistles, and then some. However, if you’re sailing Alaska for the first time, you tend to not use any of them, because you’re focused on the scenery – especially if you have an aft balcony, as we did. So, other than keeping the teenagers and millennials busy, the extra features just run up the costs for me – they don’t add value. It’s one of the reasons I prefer the smaller ships.

Alaska Excursions

We managed to get our excursions chosen and booked. Since we’re traveling with my niece and sister-in-law, there were twice as many votes as usual. Still, a consensus was eventually achieved.
We booked through Norwegian, although we could probably save a bit by booking independently, but the port times in a couple of places are short enough where we wanted to be on an excursion that was run for the cruise line.
In Ketchikan, we are on the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour. We are going out on a The Aleutian Ballad – a ship that was on Deadliest Catch (season two – she was hit by a rogue wave) to catch crab. Well, to watch trained people catch crab, and then handle the catch before it’s thrown back. It’s a good chance to be on a crab fishing boat (with its slightly inauthentic heated stadium seating), see what pulling a pot is like, and see what comes out of the ocean. This was one excursion I really wanted to do, so I’m happy. (I don’t remember anyone on Deadliest Catch drinking hot chocolate, but I like it, so hand over the mug.)
In Juneau, we will go on another boat to visit Mendenhall Glacier and go whale-watching. An interesting aspect to Alaska whale-watching tours – almost all of them have a money-back guarantee! This either means there are a lot of whales in Alaska or there’s a boat that goes out first and releases them.
In Skagway, we will visit the Best of Skagway and ride the White Pass Railway. I usually avoid “best of” excursions, since you’re rushed through a bunch of places you don’t care about seeing in order to see the one place you want, but I get to pan for gold and see a former brothel, so I’ll take my chances. The White Pass Railway is a narrow-gauge rail line from the port at Skagway up to the gold mines in Canada. The mines don’t need supplies from the line any longer, so now they mine tourists. It’s the first excursion I remember where we will be in two countries, since we’re going from the US to Canada and back.
It’s interesting to see how much there is to do (although each port seems to have a specialty – Juneau for whales, Skagway you have to ride the railway), but also to remember how little of Alaska you actually visit.

Speed

You probably already know that a ship’s speed is measured in knots (as is an airliner’s). A knot is one nautical mile per hour, which is 1.15078 miles per hour, according to Google. An average cruise ship may do 18 knots while cruising, if it’s moving quickly. So, you are spending your vacation going just under 21 miles per hour. This will make highly active people crazy, which is (I think) why there are so many distractions on a cruise ship. I find the pace relaxing.
I used to take train rides for vacation, and Amtrak’s maximum speed was 78 miles per hour on good tracks. (There are very few good tracks.) I used to think that was slow, especially compared to how my fraternity brothers drove in college.
Twenty-one miles per hour is pretty slow. (A human’s maximum running speed is 27 miles per hour, but it is difficult to run on water.) It’s why it takes eleven days to cross the Atlantic and then takes eleven hours to fly back. For reference, the last time I was on an airplane, we were doing 20 knots while we were taxiing to the runway before we even left the ground.
I just checked (because I’ve been meaning to do so), and the maximum speed a clipper ship achieved (according to Wikipedia) was 22 knots. So, when you replace sails with three or four diesel-electric engines, you really don’t go much faster. This has always interested me. We can go faster on land with cars than with horses. We can fly now. We’re still going the same speed on water. However, we now have restaurants, bars, pools and possibly a bowling alley. Clipper ships had cargo and not much else.
No matter how slowly they go, you will probably travel quite a distance on a week-long cruise. Just don’t expect to travel very far on any given day. You’ll go about 300 miles overnight, for example.